Is the Future in the Skies? Amazon’s ‘Prime Air’

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It sounds like something straight out of a science fiction novel. You place an order for something online, only to have it delivered  directly to your house by an unmanned air vehicle – or as we like to call it – a drone. In something of a Skynet-esque nightmare, this kind of scenario could be a very distinct reality in the future. As demonstrated in the video below, Amazon has unveiled its imaginatively named “Prime Air” service, which it hopes to role out in the near future. In what has thus far been deemed a rather controversial move, Amazon claims that you can place an order for a package (although it must weigh less than 2.2kg) will have  it delivered to your front door within thirty minutes. And I know what you’re thinking:

Ok so that’s quite cool…

Predator Drone 300x225 Is the Future in the Skies? Amazons Prime Air

Up until now, this is what drones have mostly been used for

But it does also seem largely pointless. Many have criticised the idea of drone based delivery, which could be a near reality with U.S. and European airspace being opened up to these mechanic critters in 2015 and 2016 respectively; they say that not only are there some clear inherent problems with the sky being filled with flying package deliveries, but that people could take advantage of this delivery system, even shooting them down. A quick glance at the Youtube comments on Amazon’s page shows that opinion is polarised between people who applaud the idea, and people who think that it’s one step too far in a society already sufficiently obsessed with instant gratification.

Many have praised Amazon in advertising this type of delivery option, if it could ever be pulled off, it would be very difficult for other, smaller companies to ever match this kind of service. I don’t think that 99% of people in the world would ever urgently need a specific Amazon product within thirty minutes – you could probably go to a shop and back in that time anyway – but it is nonetheless interesting to see a non-military application for drones. Thus far they have mainly received negative connotations due to their use by modern armies, but as airspace is opened up, I am sure that we’ll see some ingenious uses for these little robots.

I personally think that this is a hugely unnecessary step for Amazon to take. From the sheer financial costs involved in research and development, in putting systems in place to ensure a trigger happy U.S. resident doesn’t bring down a drone and take it apart, and in making sure that there are enough drones to match public demand, they will likely spend an extremely large amount of money. Money which could be better spent, oh I don’t know, on improving working conditions at their warehouses?

Is this the future of consumerism? Or merely another fad, which in the holiday season Amazon has used very well to get people talking about them. This could, after all, simply be a very good marketing tool for the online retailer, who may have wanted to cement their position in the minds of shoppers as the online place to be this Winter.  I strongly believe that whilst the idea of this service is great, the sheer amount of demand would negate any potential benefits. Even before safety concerns, or concerns over technological capability (the battery life on Amazon’s drones is pretty poor and they can only go a 10km radius from the warehouse) are raised, how are Amazon going to deliver their ‘Prime Air’ service to a potential market of thousands, if not millions? Say one thousand people in Los Angeles decide that they’re going to have something delivered in the same day via ‘Prime Air’ and there are only 100 drones available. People are either going to have to schedule a delivery, which seems to me to be the same as waiting for a delivery person, or will have to use it another day, which negates the benefit of it being such a convenient and easy-to-use tool.

For me, it will always be a fad. These could be my famous last words, but I don’t think it will ever catch on. Perhaps it might for a very specific, small group of people. But the wider public will never adopt it in the next decade, let alone permit it to become the norm.

 

James McClaren

James McClaren is studying Arabic & Spanish at the University of Manchester and loves learning, writing and keeping up to date with upcoming technology and gadgets.